Antipsychotics developed in the mid-20th century are often referred to as first-generation or typical antipsychotics, while antipsychotics developed more recently are referred to as second-generation or atypical antipsychotics. These medications reduce or eliminate symptoms of psychosis (delusions and hallucinations) by affecting the brain chemical called dopamine.
All antipsychotics play a vital role in treating schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Second-generation antipsychotics can also be used to treat acute mania, bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant depression.
Second-generation antipsychotics aren’t necessarily better than first-generation, but they do have different side effects. First-generation antipsychotics are more likely to cause movement disorders like tardive dyskinesia—an uncomfortable condition in which the brain misfires and causes random, uncontrollable muscle movements or tics. Second-generation antipsychotics are more likely to result in weight gain, which can lead to health complications such as metabolic syndrome.
These medication fact sheets were created by SMI Adviser content partners and approved by the SMI Adviser clinical expert team for inclusion in the knowledge base.